Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Smolensk-based blogger Aleksei Chervyakov is a political prisoner

12 May 2022

Chervyakov is being prosecuted on charges of rehabilitating Nazism for comments he made online against graffiti with a veteran’s portrait

Source: Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’

The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers the Smolensk-based blogger Aleksei Chervyakov a political prisoner in accordance with international criteria. We believe his prosecution for exercising the right to freedom of expression in the absence of any evidence of a crime is politically motivated.

We demand that Chervyakov be released from house arrest and the charges against him be dropped.

Who is Chervyakov and what are the charges against him?

In November 2021 the blogger Aleksei Chervyakov, founder of Safonovskie Vedomosti, an online news service, commented on VKontakte about the news that a portrait of World War II veteran V. Yakunin was being painted on the wall of School No. 22 in Smolensk.

Chervyakov questioned the appropriateness of the graffiti, stating he was against the depiction of past or present military personnel in educational institutions and the encouragement of a cult of war in schools.

In December 2021 Chervyakov was detained by FSB officers. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against him on charges of defaming the honour and dignity of a veteran of the Great Patriotic War (Article 354.1, Part 4, of the Russian Criminal Code). It later became known that the blogger had also been charged with other episodes under the same article.

Chervyakov faces up to five years’ imprisonment. He is now under house arrest.

Why do we consider Chervyakov a political prisoner?

We have carefully studied the documents in the case of Aleksei Chervyakov and concluded that his criminal prosecution is politically motivated and unlawful.

We believe that Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Rehabilitation of Nazism’), in particular Parts 3 and 4, unreasonably restricts freedom of speech. The provisions of this article criminalise the expression of opinion about events of the past, ban criticism of official symbols and make it illegal to make critical remarks about veterans.

While, under Russian law, insult does not constitute a criminal offence, Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalises insulting veterans, thereby artificially and unreasonably singling them out from all other individuals. Thus, criminal liability for statements of the same content depends on the status of the particular individual – whether he or she is a veteran or not.

We believe that the statements made by Aleksei Chervyakov are an opinion about the placing of an image of military personnel on a public building, and not about the personality of the veteran. They are not intended to defame the honour and dignity of V. Yakunin, while an insult is understood to be precisely defamation of this kind.

Furthermore, Chervyakov’s statements do not represent any danger to the public, they are of little significance and therefore, according to Article 14 of the Russian Criminal Code, do not constitute a crime.

It should be noted that the article criminalising the rehabilitation of Nazism was added to the Criminal Code in May 2014, at the height of the Russian authorities’ propaganda campaign cultivating the myth of the heavy-handed domination of Banderites in Ukraine. The amendment regarding protection of veterans was introduced in March 2021, following the trial of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny for defamation of a veteran.

We consider the prosecution of Aleksei Chervyakov fits logically into the campaign to foment militaristic sentiment in Russia in the run-up to the aggression against Ukraine.

A more detailed description of the case and the position of the Human Rights Project are set out on our Telegram channel.  

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How to help

You can donate to support political prisoners via the YooMoney account of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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